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Widening socio-economic disparities in early childhood obesity in Los Angeles County after the Great Recession

  • Tabashir Z Nobari (a1) (a2), Shannon E Whaley (a2), Catherine M Crespi (a3), Michael L Prelip (a1) and May C Wang (a1)...

While economic crises can increase socio-economic disparities in health, little is known about the impact of the 2008–09 Great Recession on obesity prevalence among children, especially low-income children. The present study examined whether socio-economic disparities in obesity among children of pre-school age participating in a federal nutrition assistance programme have changed since the recession.


A pre–post observational study using administrative data of pre-school-aged programme participants from 2003 to 2014. Logistic regression was used to examine whether the relationship between obesity prevalence (BMI≥95th percentile of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s growth charts) and three measures of socio-economic status (household income, household educational attainment, neighbourhood-level median household income) changed after the recession by examining the interaction between each socio-economic status measure and a 5-year time-period variable (2003–07 v. 2010–14), stratified by child’s age and adjusted for child’s sociodemographic characteristics.


Los Angeles County, California, USA.


Children aged 2–4 years (n 1 637 788) participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.


The magnitude of the association of household income and household education with obesity increased after 2008–09 among 3- and 4-year-olds and 2- and 3-year-olds, respectively. However, the magnitude of the association of neighbourhood-level median household income with obesity did not change after 2008–09.


Disparities in obesity by household-level socio-economic status widened after the recession, while disparities by neighbourhood-level socio-economic status remained the same. The widening household-level socio-economic disparities suggest that obesity prevention efforts should target the most vulnerable low-income children.

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